Supporting Innovative Thinking and the Design Process

When I began this module on the ISTE student standard Innovative designer I wasn’t sure where it was going to take me. The standard itself is all about designing something that allows for students to identify problems, create a process for solving and integrate perseverance and management skills and constraints all while working within an open-ended structure. When thinking about the standard I was specifically drawn to the first two indicators. These indicators state that students should be able to use the design process to generate ideas, test out their theories, be creators, and use the appropriate digital tool in order to solve authentic problems. I had more questions than I had answers when I began and I still feel like I’m not in a place where I have a completely fleshed out solution. One question I had was around how to really help teachers to incorporate a design process within their curricular area especially those areas that are seen as more traditional or skills and standards-based for example math or ELA. I wanted to think about how a more traditional class could build in a design process that allows for or helps teachers to see the connection between the design process and the standards that they are trying to teach or incorporate. My big question was how can I help emphasize the connection between the two in order to support teachers and students in seeing the relevance in the work and what connections can be made between the design process and the other content standards that teachers are trying to teach. I think what really intrigued me about this was that often times in classrooms there seems to be a tension between wanting to create and engage students in a project-based lesson or the design process but there’s always this tension of time. Not having enough time to get through a scope and sequence or the pacing guides or the standards thus there is that struggle of wanting to truly engage students but not feeling like they can because of additional outside pressures.

To begin trying to answer my question I really dug into some different resources that were provided through my graduate program and then I pulled additional resources that some of my cohort members shared or that I found through the readings that I started with. One of the first resources that I looked at was from The Institute of Design at Stanford. It was a great introduction to what the design process is and how that could look within a classroom. I think it really helped me to Think Through the different pieces that go along with the design process and think about how I could showcase those or describe them to teachers in order to help teachers feel more comfortable with the process. I really grabbed onto the empathize portion of the design process. I think it’s important for educators to remember that we’re designing for an audience and in order to do that we need to know who our audience is. We can do that through interviews, talking and communicating with each other. The Institute of Design at Stanford describes the emphasize process as one in which the designer is trying to solve problems for someone else not themselves and so in order to do that they need to understand why that problem is important to the audience that they’re trying to solve it for. I love how the Institute of Design at Stanford described it as needing “to learn to see things “with a fresh set of eyes,” and empathizing is what gives us those new eyes” (p.2). The other key components to the design process are define, ideate, prototype and test. I think it’s important to think about how all of those stages weave together and go from one to the other and it’s not until the final stage that maybe you need to circle back to the emphasize stage.

MrJanzen1984 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

After I dug into what the design process is I started to think about what that means for classrooms and how I can support that work. I read an article from ISTE called Here’s how you teach innovative thinking and in it a book by Sharon Sakai-Miller called Innovation Age Learning was referenced. I decided to buy a copy of the book in order to dig deeper into what innovative thinking could look in the classroom. One of the things that stood out was this notion of thinking about the lesson in terms of what, so what, and now what. Sakai-Miller emphasized that it is important to ask ourselves these questions when designing a lesson so we can get at the heart and bigger purpose of the lesson. One of the questions I had though was around finding the relevance and connection between the design process and the standards that teachers are trying to cover. One of the things mentioned was the idea of a matrix that connects technology standards with content standards. This sounded exactly like what I needed so I began to think about what this might look like. Something that I thought about was how I might work with other facilitators in my district in order to take the scope and sequence and weave in the ISTE student standards. I think this could be done electronically and then shared out with teachers. This then might help teachers to see how their content standards and the ISTE standards can work together. From there I think it would be possible to look at a unit of study and backwards plan in order to build in the design process. Sakai-Miller (2016), talks about how important it is to not only state the content standards but also the technology standards because “unless those “invisible outcomes” are stated and valued, they will not be developed” (p.28). I am also thinking about how students might see the relevance between what they are learning, what they are doing and the ISTE standards. This is leading me to think about different ways of highlighting these connections. One thing I thought about would be for students to use some sort of blogging platform in order to begin each unit of study by reflecting. I’m thinking that teachers could have posted either electronically in their LMS or physically in their classroom the content and ISTE standards for the unit, the objectives, and then a driving question. Students might then take time at the beginning to think about and answer the driving question. Then throughout the unit students might use some sort of resource such as coggle to show the connections between what they are learning, the standards (both content and ISTE) and the driving question. I then think it would be great if at the end of the unit students circle backed to what they wrote at the start of the unit to see if their thoughts had changed and then to see what connections can be made from what they learned and current issues in the real world. Throughout all of this though it is important for the teacher to be modeling and doing this alongside the students. This leads to how I might be able to support teachers in this work and that is through modeling the process myself.

Another resource I found was from Edutopia called Supporting the Teacher Maker Movement. While this article was focused on what principals can do to support, it gave me some great ideas for how I might support. A few of the things that rose to the top were providing collaboration time, encouraging teachers to design around their interests, and creating a standards-based matrix. While these again focused on how a principal might support this, it got me thinking about how important it is for teachers to feel like they aren’t alone. I can support teachers by collaborating with them and helping them to think outside the box when it comes to designing around things that interest them. I also plan on working to create some sort of standards-based matrix that can be used in order for teachers to still keep track of the standards they need to teach but also incorporate the ISTE standards. 

So while I don’t feel like I have fully answered the question that I started with, I do think I have made progress. As I continue my work I plan on utilizing the questions of what, so what, and now what when designing lessons and activities. I also plan on working with other content facilitators to see how we might incorporate the ISTE standards into our current scope and sequences. I also plan on continuing to seek out additional resources on empowering teachers to be innovators and I plan on continuing to model this for teachers and students.

References

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6 Responses to Supporting Innovative Thinking and the Design Process

  1. Kaelynn says:

    I love how real and honest you are in your blog. It’s nice to hear that other people (not just me) are wrestling through what ISTE standard 4 means and working hard to make it relevant for other teachers. I loved how you highlighted the importance of empathy in the design process and I also want to learn more about your standards-based matrix that can help teachers see the connection between their current curriculums and the ISTE standards. It sounds like a really helpful tool! Thanks for sharing.

    • admin says:

      I plan on reaching out to our math facilitator in our district to see if they would be willing to partner with me on creating the matrix. I do think it could be very helpful. I can follow up with you once I have something put together.

  2. Cory Cummings says:

    “One of the things that stood out was this notion of thinking about the lesson in terms of what, so what, and now what. Sakai-Miller emphasized that it is important to ask ourselves these questions when designing a lesson so we can get at the heart and bigger purpose of the lesson.” – This way of thinking really connected with me. I think it’s really interesting to think of those questions in relation to a lesson and identifying its purpose. I am really curious to know what you thought of the rest of her book. It sounds like a great resource!

    “Something that I thought about was how I might work with other facilitators in my district in order to take the scope and sequence and weave in the ISTE student standards. I think this could be done electronically and then shared out with teachers. This then might help teachers to see how their content standards and the ISTE standards can work together.” – This seems like an extremely beneficial matrix to develop and, as you mentioned, I think this could really help some teachers to see how the design process can fit into the work they’re already doing. I would be really interested in seeing what you come up with for a matrix if/when you develop it!

  3. Rachel says:

    I liked how you are looking to interweave ISTE standards into the scope and sequence of other subject areas. If teachers are able to see the connections they will better be able to support students in achieving the indicators of student standard 4. I really appreciated your honest reflection on how you want to work as a coach in order to help the teachers at your school be successful with in this area. I agree that teachers need support and people who are willing to try things with them. I also read the ISTE article, and am interested in the book you purchased. I hope you find some good information in there to help you as you continue growing in this area. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I loved reading through your thinking process and wrestling with your question.

    I feel you have also answered your question and found a design process more than you think! You write about thinking of problems in what, so what and now what and as I went through your post, I can clearly see that is what you have done. Your what is your search, your so what is why it matters, and you have some very clear and concise now whats… “So while I don’t feel like I have fully answered the question that I started with, I do think I have made progress. As I continue my work I plan on utilizing the questions of what, so what, and now what when designing lessons and activities. I also plan on working with other content facilitators to see how we might incorporate the ISTE standards into our current scope and sequences. I also plan on continuing to seek out additional resources on empowering teachers to be innovators and I plan on continuing to model this for teachers and students.”

    Keep on trekking, you have found some amazing resources and have some great thinking!

  5. Doug says:

    I, too, appreciate your honesty and vulnerability throughout your post. Thank you for sharing your journey of discernment as you process through design thinking, what it means for classrooms, and how best to share with and coach teachers. I really like what you shared around the Stanford Design School’s approach to looking with new eyes and the quote, “empathizing is what gives us those new eyes.” I think this is really a great connection and one of my main takeaways. Thank you for sharing!

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